Forensic Fashion
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>Costume Studies
>>1798 United Irishman croppy
Subject: United Irishman 'croppy' rebel
Culture: Catholic Irish
Setting: rebellions, Ireland late 18th - early 19thc
Evolution: ... > 1593 Irish ceithernach 1691 Irish ropaire > 1798 United Irishman croppy

Context (Event Photos, Primary Sources, Secondary Sources, Field Notes)

* Cottrell 2006 p15-16
"Before 1798, none of the rebellions were about breaking the link between the Irish and English Crowns; in fact, between 1689 and 1691 thousands of Irishmen fought to restore James II to his English throne.  It is true that the Williamite victories on the Boyne and Aughrim, still celebrated by Northern Irish Unionists to this day, may have guaranteed Protestant Ascendancy even if this campaign was only a minor sideshow in a larger European war.  For a hundred years after these victories, anti-Catholic Penal Laws discriminated against the Catholic majority; however, their repeal in 1778-82 allowed Catholic families to be listed once more amongst landowning classes.
      "A distinctive feature of rural Irish society was the proliferation of 'secret' societies that, under cover of darkness, imposed their own version of social justice.  The punishment beatings by Catholic Defenders or Whiteboys and Protestant Peep O'Day Boys were as much about economic grievances as sectarian ones.  The United Irishmen rebellion of 1798 may well have been intended as a Jacobin secular revolt, but because of ingrained sectarianism in many areas it degenerated into massacre and counter-massacre by Catholic and Protestant mobs.
  "The rebellion of 1798 had not begun as an excuse for discontent Catholic peasants to massacre their Protestant landlords and run amok; its inspiration was the secular French Revolution that destroyed the Ancien Régime in 1789.  Its leaders sought to create a non-sectarian Irish Republic of Protestants, Catholics and Dissenters as United Irishmen, breaking the link between Ireland and England.  Revolutionary France, which had been at war with England since 1793, was more than happy to supply arms and troops to attack her vulnerable Irish flank.  Unfortunately, the revolt was badly organized, poorly led and French help arrived too late to make any difference.  Although 'The '98' as it became known was consigned by government troops to the pantheon of heroic failures that pepper Irish history, it remains significant for one reason -- it was the symbolic birth of the Irish Republican Movement."

* Kenney 1996 p5
"The factors which combined to bring about the events of 1798 were many and varied.  They included religious discrimination, the influence of American and French republicanism, and fast-growing population adn endemic agrarian unrest.  The Irish parliament in the 1790s was exclusively Protestant, despite the fact that Catholics formed the great majority of the population.  Many other anti-Catholic laws had gradually and grudgingly been removed by legislation in 1778, 1782 and 1793, particularly restrictions on their right to inherit and purchase land, enter university, practice law and hold public office.  Political and economic power remained firmly in the hands of Protestants, however, and they controlled the army, finance, education and the trade guilds.  The confiscations of the seventeenth century and a comprehensive penal code for much of the eighteenth also ensured that they held a firm grip on the landed wealth of the country.  Indeed, it has been estimated that, by the end of the 1770s, Catholics held a mere 5% of the land of Ireland.
    "Between 1767 and 1800, the population almost doubled, from 2.5 million to just under 5 million.  A growth facilitated by the sub-division of farms, it had a profound effect on rural society.  Increased competition for land caused agrarian violence and the spread of secret societies, such as Whiteboys, Oakboys and Peep o' Day Boys.  In Ulster, this took on a sectarian form and culminated in the expulsion of several thousand Catholics from Armagh in  1795, following the formation of the Orange Order.  The authorities did not intervene.  Economic growth, especially the expansion of Belfast, Dublin and other urban centres, gave the impression that the country was improving.  In some ways it was, but much of rural Ireland was in a state of 'smothered war', awaiting only a spark to ignite it."

* Llywelyn/Scott 1995
"The last half of the eighteenth century ushered in a new spirit of republicanism.  In 1776 the Americans won their War of Independence; the French Revolution began in 1789.  Encouraged by the fresh wind blowing elsewhere, political dissension in Ireland was building toward a crisis.  Agrarian reforms were demanded; sectarian unrest was growing.  While the oppressed suffered throughout the island, the elite enjoyed lives of stylish luxury.  English law was the law of the land.  Real power lay not with the Irish Parliament -- although that body had been granted formal 'independence' in 1782 -- but with the colonial administration in Dublin Castle, which was controlled by London.
    "[....]  In 1798 a series of uprisings broke out, primarily in Leinster.  There was vicious fighting in Dublin; a company of insurgents was defeated at Tara, the ancient seat of kings.  Protestant United Irishmen rose briefly in the Ulster counties of Down and Antrim, and in August 1798 became 'The Year of the French', when General Humbert landed in Co. Mayo with three shiploads of troops from France to aid the Irish cause.  After some initial success they were soundly defeated.  A second French contingent attempted a landing in Donegal in October, but was intercepted.  Wolfe Tone was captured among them wearing the uniform of a French officer, and brought to Dublin to be tried for treason.
    "Condemned to hang, he attempted suicide, and died of a self-inflicted wound on the 19th of November.
    "By the time of Tone's death, approximately 30,000 had died in bloody rebellion.  Ireland was punished for her attempt at revolution.  Whole families were burned alive in their homes, wounded men were incinerated in a hospital at Enniscorthy.  In reaction to the Rising of 1798, the Irish Parliament eventually voted for its own dissolution.  In 1800, the Act of Union was passed by the British Parliament.  When it came into effect on 1 January, 1801, Ireland official became part of the United Kingdom."

* Kenney 1996 p7-8
"The Society of United Irishmen was founded in Belfast in October 1791.  The young radicals who set up the organization, such as Wolfe Tone, Hamilton Rowan, Samuel Neilson and Thomas Russell, were much influenced by the momentous events taking place in Europe, but the movement contained people of various political shades, from cautious reformers to republican radicals.  Their objective was 'an equal representation of all the people in parliament' and a political system which would include people of all religious persuasions.  The demand for a separate republic came later.
    "The American struggle for independence had been greeted with particular enthusiasm in Ulster, where there was a strong and independent-minded Presbyterian community.  Relatively prosperous and politically conscious, they occupied a middle ground, socially and economically, between the Protestant establishment and the Catholic majority.  Having welcomed American independence, they now began to demand not only the removal of restrictions affecting themselves but also removal of the remaining laws against Catholics.  The possibility of an alliance between the two groups was a cause for much alarm to the government."

* National Museum of Ireland -- Decorative Arts & History > Soldiers and Chiefs: The Irish at War at Home and Abroad since 1550
"The 1798 Rebellion  In 1798, after years of discontent and repression, a great rebellion broke out in Ireland.  Led by a group called the United Irishmen, thousands of Irish people, both Catholics and Protestants, took up arms for the ideal of liberty.  Despite the belated assistance of a small French force, the British Army (assisted by loyalist Irish troops) suppressed the rising with great ruthlessness."

* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p4-5
"Under the circumstances London had no alternative but to make concessions, at the cost of strengthening the hold of the corrupt oligarchy in Dublin, and of sharpening the frustration of the emergent Catholic middle class, who still remained barred from an active part in public life.  Encouraged first by the American example, and then by the French Revolution of 1789, many of the latter -- in alliance with politicized Presbyterian colleagues in the North -- became involved in a secret revolutionary group calling itself the Society of the United Irishmen.
    "Formed in 1791, this 'left-wing' organization was pledged to a total overthrow of the existing regime and to the establishment of a French-style republic dedicated to Liberty, Equality and the Rights of Man.  'The 98' is popularly characterized in the conventional terms of a Catholic peasant uprising against the Protestant ascendancy, but it is important to remember that many of its radical leaders -- such as Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Wolfe Tone and Bagenal Harvey -- were Protestants, who regarded religion as an issue only insofar as they wanted to end the entrenched discrimination against Catholics in public life.  However, it was only making common cause with the landless Catholic peasantry that they were able -- on paper at least -- to form a large army, which was intended to rise up in concert with a French invasion."

* Bartlett/Dawson/Keogh 1998 p107
"From the beginning, the rebellion had taken on a sectarian cast.  Such a development may have been inevitable, given the balance of power within the Protestant Irish state, given that state's interpretation of the entire United Irish project, and given its determination to fly its flag above the stronghold of Protestant Ascendancy.  No doubt also the Orange hue of the military excesses during the 'pre-rebellion' was hugely conducive to this development."


* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p22
"The enduring image of the rebel armies of 1798 is of dun-coloured masses of pikemen, and the classic description of them was penned by a Wexford loyalist named Charles Jackson:
We passed through crowds of rebels, who were in the most disorderly state, without the least appearance of discipline.  They had no kind of uniform but were most of them in the dress of labourers, white bands round their hats and green cockades being the only marks by which they were distinguished.  They made a most fantastic appearance, many having decorated themselves with parts of the apparel of ladies, found in houses they had plundered.  Some were ladies' hats and feathers, others, caps, bonnets and tippets.  From the military they had routed they had collected some clothing which added to the motley show.  Their arms consisted chiefly of pikes of an enormous length, the handles of many being sixteen or eighteen feet long.  Some carried rusty muskets.  They were accompanied by a number of women shouting and huzzaing for the Croppies and crying, 'Who now dare say 'Croppies, lie down?'"

* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p45 caption F
"Authentic contemporary images of the Irish rebels are virtually non-existent, and modern reconstructions are generally too reliant on Cruickshank's caricature illustrations from a generation or so later. ....  The cropping of the swallow-tailed coat skirts to turn the garment into a jacket was a practical and common practice in both town and country.  Pyne's drover was wearing a white jacket, but like his bill-poster both our subjects wear the indeterminate brown shade sometimes referred to as 'country grey'.  As with Scottish 'hodden grey' and Confederate 'butternut', this was a woollen material that was dyed grey as part of the finishing process, but when exposed to sunlight rapidly turned brown.  So universal was this colour that one British officer complained that Irish Yeomanry and Militia wantonly murdered anyone in a brown coat, on the assumption that if he was a countryman he must also be a rebel."

* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p45-46 caption G
"As the insurgents rested in the shade of some woods before the battle of Ballynahinch, a 12-year-old boy named James Thomson observed their appearance:
They wore no uniforms; yet they presented a tolerably decent appearance of being dressed, no doubt, in their 'Sunday clothes' ...  The only thing in which they all concurred was the wearing of green: almost every individual having a knot of ribbons of that colour, sometimes mixed with yellow, in his hat ... and many ... bore ornaments of various descriptions and of different degrees of taste and execution; the most of which had been presented as tributes of regard and affection and as incentives to heroic deeds, by females whose breasts beat as high in patriotic ardour as those of their husbands, their sweethearts and their brothers...."


* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p23-24
"Despite encouragement offered by France, practical assistance was virtually non-existent, and there is no evidence of any attempt to run guns to the rebels other than Hoche's abortive expedition in 1796 and Humbert's slightly more successful attempt in August 1798.  Consequently, the rebels were entirely thrown back upon their own resources.  There were some firelocks and even a couple of cannon hidden away from Volunteer days; a rash of robberies aimed at stealing arms from gentlemen's houses had been carried out in the early months of 1798, and once the rebellion broke out some 'stands of arms' were captured from government troops; but this was sufficient to arm only a bare handful of the thousands sworn to the movement.  Entirely typically, after the fight at Naas on the first night of the uprising 800 pikes were picked up from the field but hardly more than 20 firelocks (though one must remember that men running away from a battlefield are a good deal more likely to throw away pikes than muskets)."


* Reid/Embleton(s) 2011 p24-33
"The only practical way to procure anything like sufficient weapons for the regiments being secretly raised all across the countryside was by setting local blacksmiths to forging pike-heads -- and according to a rebel leader named Miles Byrne, 'almost every blacksmith was a United Irishman'.  In some areas the arms seizures by the security forces compelled many rebels to fall back on pitchforks, scythes and other improvisations when the rebellion actually began, but otherwise pikes predominated.   According to contemporary descriptions they varied from 10ft to as much as 18ft in length, with handles generally cut from ash, and the heads occasionally embellished with a hook intended to cut harness or pull riders from their horses.
    "In tactical terms, the widespread use of polearms rather than muskets was not necessarily a crippling disadvantage.  Even if the rebels could have provided themselves with sufficient firearms they would still have lacked the training and practice to trade volleys successfully with the Fencibles or even perhaps the Militia.  Giving them pikes compelled them to employ offensive tactics akin to the volley-and-bayonet-charge doctrine developed by the regulars during the American War, or the Highland charge of half a century earlier.  Certainly, in those instances -- as at Enniscorthy --when the rebels succeeded in launching heavy columns of pikemen covered by skirmishers against government forces obligingly drawn up in the open, then raw courage and sheer weight of numbers frequently carried the day.  There were also a number of occasions -- such as the fight at Old Kilcullen -- when government cavalrymen re-learned the hard way the old truth that steady pikemen cannot be broken by simply charging straight at them."

* National Museum of Ireland -- Decorative Arts and History > Soldiers and Chiefs: The Irish at War at Home and Abroad since 1550
​"Until the French arrived, the United Irishmen lacked sufficient supplies of firearms to equip their enthusiastic followers.  Instead local blacksmiths made pikes, turning scythes and axes into weapons.  Though obsolete, pikes came to be seen as the symbol of this popular uprising against the oppressor."

* Hurley 2007 p142
"Crann Píce -- the staff of the Irish píce or 'pike', is knobless, shod with an iron spike or spear-head, is between 8 and 12 feet long (or longer), and associated with those Irish stick-fighters involved in the United Irishmen Uprising of 1798.  The lorga carnaí may have been a shorter version of the crann píce.  Wielded with two hands."


* Hurley 2007 p173
"During the 18th and 19th centuries virtually any Irishman could have been armed with a walking stick and this would give no open indication that he was prepared for an attack or that he was a trained fighter the way that exhibiting a sword or pistol would.  It could be that the blackthorn or walking stick was the original, 'multi-functional' Irish stick from which other styles of stick could have best evolved.  Cut the knob off a long heavy blackthorn and add ferrules and you have a shillelagh; keep the knob and you can use it as a walking stick, alpeen, or even in a scooben or hurling match.  The knobbed stick could have easily been used in the more ancient Irish stick games such as those which evolved into modern hurling and shinty matches and probably the game of golf.   The golf club comes from this same stick.  If a person was unarmed, an apleen [SIC] could have easily been cut out of a hedge on the spur of the moment for an unexpected fight and still be used effectively in its natural state; infact [SIC] we know that this did happen."

* Barth 1977 p56, 57
"Ancient feuds between families or different parties were often fought out with shillelaghs at county fairs.  Irish novels of the eighteenth century frequently describe this. Only later, after the Irish were drawn together by a national spirit, did such feuding end."
    "[...] A real shillelagh was never swung, but grasped in the middle. A fighter used two.  With one hand he dealt a blow. With the other, he warded off the 'whack' of his opponent."

* Jennings 2016-10-13 online
"It seems that when a fight was brewing, each Irishman used whatever weapon served him best, whether it be a shillelagh, cudgel, camán, or any other striking apparatus that could be easily and effective welded.  But the most famous Irish weapon, and one that would become synonymous with that country's culture and customs, was the shillelagh.
    "The shillelagh remains a bit of an enigma, simply because the term itself is a sort of catch-all for nearly every iteration of a weapon used in and around Ireland.  The etymology of the word shillelagh is also unclear, as it is neither English nor Gaelic in origin.  The lexical history of shillelagh remains a bit of an epistemological mystery, as clear roots of the word cannot be definitively traced, although numerous theories, from the name of the Shillelagh forest to a combination of words that, over time, became degraded to the singular name of the weapon.
    "While the vagueness of the shillelagh's precise lexical roots may make it seem that any stick could be referred to as a shillelagh, that was certainly not the case.  An Irish shillelagh is approximately one meter in length and constructed only from woods of oak, ash, crab tree, hazel, or blackthorn, which was the most prized of the Irish woods.  They typically have a knob at the end, made for crushing craniums, and doubled in functionality as a walking stick.  In popular culture, one often thinks of the shillelagh as a short stick, a small bat, but that weapon is actual a cudgel. An Irishman would have probably carried both, a long shillelagh as a cane-cum-weapon, and a cudgel, a shorter stick that, at some point, became synonymous with the shillelagh although the two are distinctly different."

* Hurley 2007 p121
"According to modern Irish language dictionaries, the term shillelagh actually comes from the words sail, which means both 'willow' and 'cudgel', and éille, the genitive singular of iall, which means 'thong', 'strap' or 'leash'.  Sail-éille then, actually means 'thonged willow-stick' or 'thonged-cudgel' and not 'oak-stick' at all, as would be expecgted with the Oak Forest Theory.  Perhaps willow and other trees grew beside the great oaks of the Síol Éalaigh Forest of County Wicklow, but this still does not account for why this most famous stick, allegedly made of oak, is not called a 'thonged oak stick' or dair-éille.  And if, as some suggest, Irish stick-fighters used for the most part, blackthorn walking sticks, then why is the famous word for an Irish fighting stick no maide draighin or 'blackthorn stick'?
    "There is another possibility, which I have not seen suggested elsewhere, which might account for the shillelagh name.  It is possible that shillelagh does not in fact come from sail-éille or from the Siol Éalaigh Forest at all, but from another term for the 'walking stick', or bata-siúil as it is also known.  If one of these sticks had a leather thong on it, as was once common, it could have been called a bata-siúil-éille ('bata-shoollelagh') or 'thonged walking stick'.  This term would account for the transliteration into English of 'shill', 'shool', and 'ailey', and might possibly explain a later confusion of bata-siúil-éille with sail-éille and síol éalaigh.
    "If high quality walking sticks were made from the wood of either the oak or willow forests in the region of Siol Éalaigh, Co. Wicklow, they could both by called siúil-éille's or 'thonged walkers', meaning 'thonged walking-sticks'.  It is possible that the Irish walking-stick industry has a much older provenance than historians are aware of, but it seems more likely that the term shillelagh comes from either sail-éille, or bata-siúil-éille."